Keeping Good Records

(Submitted by Melissa Carter, Business Development Specialist, Small Business Development Center, OSU South Centers)

January is typically the month we all try to start fresh.  New resolutions, new goals, and new opportunities.  January is the perfect month to continue or start keeping good records for your business. Why keep records? Here’s some reasons for keeping good records:

  • Detail tracking – Whether it’s customers, sales, or inventory, these details help run your operations smoothly.
  • Planning – Keeping good records helps anticipate seasonality of your business. You can run a sale this March to get customers in the door if you know last March was slow.
  • Tax Prep – There’s no need to scramble around at the last minute to get your tax paperwork in order. Maintain those records that you know you’ll have to report quarterly or annually for federal, state and local requirements.
  • Legal Compliance – Having a good record system of your contacts, leases, agreements with suppliers, licenses, permits and insurance just allows your business to run seamlessly. If a problem arises, you’ll be able to show the documents necessary to keep everything on the up and up.
  • Payroll and Personnel – If you have employees, there are numerous records you are required to keep – even after your employee leaves your business.

 

If you already keep good records for your business, great!  Keep it up!  If you are not up to par, don’t stress!  Start this year fresh and then build upon that.

10 Ways to Thwart Cyber Threats at Work

(Submitted by Kelly O’Bryant, Business Specialist, SBDC Export Assistance Network, OSU South Centers)

Sourced from: hr.blr.com

  1. Use strong passwords.
  2. Change passwords regularly.
  3. Do not share user names or passwords.
  4. Make regular backups of critical work.
  5. Avoid clicking on links to websites provided in e-mails.
  6. Use discretion when opening e-mail attachments.
  7. Confirm that an e-mail request for sensitive information is authentic before complying with it.
  8. Be wary of unexpected changes in established protocols for financial transactions.
  9. Ask IT before installing or connecting any personal software or hardware to the organization’s network or hardware.
  10. When traveling on business, keep laptops and other mobile devices hidden from view, and do not leave them unattended in unsecured areas.

4 Steps To Creating A Vision For Your Business

(Shared by Ryan Mapes, Manager, Endeavor Center and Program Leader, Business Development Network, OSU South Centers)

Posted by a Contributor on 3/21/17
at Youngupstarts.com
by Rich Allen, author of “The Ultimate Business Tune Up: A Simple Yet Powerful Business Model That Will Transform the Lives of Small Business Owners“

Running a business takes more than a day-by-day approach. You need a clear idea of where you want your business to be ten years from now — your own North Star that not only inspires you, it inspires your team as well. Essentially, if you want to get somewhere and you want people to follow you there, you have to visualize it first: you can’t be a leader without vision.

The problem is, most of us are too busy tackling the everyday challenges to sit back and look at what we’re doing and where we want to be. Buried under the daily pressures of running a business, most small business owners can barely think six months ahead, let alone ten years.

Here are four simple steps to picture your business in ten years, and chart the best course to get there and inspire your people to get behind you and come along for the ride:

1. Start with the mountaintop.

Imagine it’s ten years from now. Write down all the particulars you can of what your business looks like. There are no right or wrong answers here. The point is to focus on learning your vision of your business in the future: where you want to go, and what you want it to look like. Don’t worry about whether it will actually turn out this way.

Include:
•How many team members you’ll have
•What locations you’ll have
•What products and services you offer
•How your business is structured
•What your ideal customer or client looks like
•What kind of volume you’re doing
•What your own life is like, and how involved you are in the daily goings on of your business.
•And if you’re not involved any more, what are you doing instead?

2. Back up five years.

Once you have the ten-year vision down in writing, back up halfway. In five years, where do you need to be in order to be on track to hit that ten-year point? Cover the same details, and write them down. For instance:
•How many people are on your team?
•Do you have half the locations as in ten years?
•Are you offering the same products as services as now, or the same as in ten years?
•Have you found your ideal customers yet?
•Are you doing half the volume you’re doing in ten years?
•Are you still going into work every day? What’s your own life like in five years?

3. Back up two more years.

Now that you have your five-year vision, take it back to the three-year version of your business. Ask the same questions, and think about whether or not your three-year vision backs up your five-year vision: are you on the right course? Where do you have to be in here years in order to achieve your five-year goals?

4. Back up to next year.

Finally, flip the script entirely: You need to take a sharp look at the next year — and now you have a ten-year perspective to do it in. So ask yourself: where do I need to be next year to be on track to reach my three-year vision? Use the same criteria, and make sure it’s as specific as possible.

By starting at the top and working your way back, you’ve already set up your goalposts. And with a very specific outline of your one-year, three-year, five-year, and ten-year vision, you can start to create a plan and structure for your business that will get you to each benchmark. You can share this vision, and its structure, with your people, inspiring them to follow your lead. You can also check in periodically, and see if you are on pace to make what you need to make happen. If not, you have a good idea of what needs to be modified or adjusted — without losing focus.

The truth is, if you just go on about your daily activities and hope you’ll one day end up where you want to be, changes are, it won’t happen. Eighty percent of new businesses will not survive the first five years — and much of them fall prey to their own functional nearsightedness. Instead, plan out where you want to be and use a vision to guide you. Time flies when you’ve set a course.

Original Article

Local Students Tour Manufacturing Facility as part of National Manufacturing Month

(Submitted by Melissa Carter, Business Development Specialist, Small Business Development Center, OSU South Centers)

To showcase October’s National Manufacturing Month, local high school seniors along with staff members from the OSU South Centers Business Development Network, recently, toured the Speyside Bourbon Cooperage, Inc. manufacturing facility in Jackson, Ohio.

Speyside produces barrels for bourbon distilleries across the United States. While the company has been in business since 1947, they began production at the Jackson facility in 2016. Much of the raw materials used to produce the barrels comes within a 30-mile radius of Jackson. The tour highlighted the process of converting the raw materials into barrels through CNC machining and modern manufacturing.

National Manufacturing Month helps highlight the value of manufacturing to the economy and the opportunity for available and highly-skilled careers.

Eastern High School Seniors from Pike County participated in the tour to highlight local careers available in the manufacturing industry after graduation. “Not only did these students get to tour a manufacturing facility in the region, they also learned career opportunities in manufacturing as well as some required skills needed to enter the workforce.” Mick Whitt, Manufacturing Specialist with the OSU South Centers stated during the tour.

This tour also kicked off a new collaboration for the Southeastern Ohio Region. The Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) for 22 southern and southeastern counties will be housed at the OSU South Centers Endeavor Center in conjunction with the Ohio State University’s Center for Design and Manufacturing Excellence. The MEP program will focus on providing value-added manufacturing consulting services to manufacturers throughout the region. Some services include business development, new product innovation, supply chain development, and strategic growth planning.
Additional tours partnering high school students with manufacturers in the Southeastern Ohio Region are being planned throughout the coming year.

Why do local food businesses fail?

(Submitted by Ivory Harlow, Ohio Cooperative Development Center, OSU South Centers)

Farm and Dairy at https://www.farmanddairy.com
By Ivory Harlow – October 16, 2017

Consumer awareness of local food and appreciation for the farmers and food entrepreneurs that produce it is at an all-time high. As the market share of local foods increases, new business opportunities abound. In 2015 sales of local food topped $8.7 billion dollars according to a Local Food Marketing Practices Survey from the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Successful sales, growing demand, and plentiful public interest seem to create the perfect conditions to start or grow a local food business. But many local foods businesses fail, while others struggle to cover the basic costs of operation. Some rely heavily on loans and grants to keep the lights on and doors open. The failure of these businesses to thrive affects farmers, business owners and employees, as well as the local economy and larger community.

Why local foods fail

James Matson is an agricultural economist and agribusiness advisor. He serves as a consultant with Matson Consulting LLC. Mr. Matson works with local foods businesses to learn the story behind their struggle. He helps foodprenuers regain their footing in the market and achieve profitability.

Matson is the author and co-author of several publications, including “Running a Food Hub: Lessons Learned from the Field” and “Running a Food Hub: A Business Operations Guide.” The two-volume series addresses nine problematic areas that cause many local food businesses to fail:
1. Customers. Know the target customer, and tailor products to fit customers’ needs.
2. Products. Achieve the right product mix based on a thorough understanding of what customers want and appropriate price points.
3. Food Safety. Understand the regulatory environment and food safety certifications.
4. Infrastructure. Purchase building and equipment to support the business’s long-term goals.
5. Profits. Plan for profitability.
6. Labor. Employ skilled labor.
7. Operations. Work with knowledgeable and capable partners.
8. Transportation. Anticipate high distribution costs and budget accordingly.
9. Software. Lack of suitable software creates operational inefficiencies.

Read more…

5 Things You Can Do To Improve Your Credit Score

(Submitted by Chris Smalley, Business Development Specialist, Small Business Development Center, OSU South Centers)

Planning on buying a car, house or even starting your own business? One of the major factors that help the lender determine your loan ability and interest rate is your credit score. If you can get your FICO score above 700, you have a lot better chance of obtaining a loan at a competitive rate which in turn translates into a smaller monthly payment leaving you with more cash flow for other expenses. Here is an article on 5 things you can do to improve your credit score. www.pnc.com

www.pnc.com/pnc-achievement-sessions

Borrowing

Credit scores. We all have one. Well, technically we all have at least three – one from each of the three credit bureaus: Equifax, Transunion, and Experian. And most of us know a few things about credit scores like the fact that they’re important, or that you can’t apply for a loan or credit card without one.

You might be wondering, what IS a credit score?

Good question.

One of the most common credit scores is known in financial circles as a FICO® score. It is a three digit number that provides lenders and other financial institutions with a summary of your credit history. According to the FICO blog, the average credit score in the United States as of April 2016 was 699. The algorithm for determining each individual’s credit score is a closely held secret, but most financial professionals agree that it’s a mix of the following factors:
•The length of time you’ve been using credit
•How much debt you have compared to your available credit
•If you’re reliable when it comes to making payments on time
•That you use a mix of different types of credit instruments (i.e. loans, credit cards, mortgages)
•How often you’re applying to open new lines of credit

If you’re wondering why the range of your credit score matters, it all comes down to this: Your credit score determines how much interest you’ll pay and how much money you can borrow. It also determines whether or not you’ll be on the hook for extra security deposits when renting a home or setting up your utilities.

The better your credit score, the more likely your interest rate will be lower, your borrowing limit higher, and the less chance you’ll have to dish out extra funds when setting up your electric bill or cellphone.

The great news about credit scores is that these numbers aren’t permanent or static. They CAN change and you have the power to increase your credit score by following a few simple rules.

5 HABITS THAT WILL IMPROVE YOUR CREDIT SCORE

Always pay your bills on time. Every time.

One of the most important things you can do to improve credit or maintain an excellent credit score is to make sure that you always pay your bills on time. Many of us like to pay more than the minimum balance on our credit cards or loans, and that’s a good and smart thing to do. But if you ever find yourself in a bit of a financial bind, make sure you can make at least the minimum payment on time to keep your credit score from taking a significant hit.

Be mindful of the reason you’re applying for new credit.

If you’re on the hunt for a new car, home, or personal loan, make sure you do your loan shopping before you apply for new lines of credit. Recent credit inquiries can reduce your score so plan for when you apply for a new line of credit or an increase in your existing line of credit. It is worth mentioning that when you apply for any credit, closed end installment loans, or open end credit lines, the lender makes an inquiry with the credit bureaus. An inquiry or two won’t significantly impact your credit score, but several inquiries over a short period of time might lower it a few points.

Never max out your credit cards.

A significant part of your credit score is calculated by examining your debt to credit limit ratio, or how much debt you’re carrying compared to the amount of available credit you have. If you have $100 in credit and you have $99 charged to that account, that means you have 1% of your available credit open for use. Not good. A good rule is to tie up no more than 30% of your total credit limit.

Keep your oldest account open and in good standing.

Want to know one of the biggest mistakes you can make after paying down your debt? Closing your oldest account. Did you know that one of the most important parts of calculating your credit score is the length of your credit history? If you close your oldest accounts, your credit history is instantly shortened. It’s okay to close accounts, but make sure you keep your oldest account open.

Monitor your credit report and your credit score.

Part of improving or maintaining your credit score means keeping an eye on your credit report and your credit score. You can get a free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each credit reporting company by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com. It’s a good idea to check on your credit score at least once a year or before you apply for any new car loan or mortgage.

Self Employment Checklist

(Shared by Jennifer Dunn, Program Assistant, Endeavor Center, OSU South Centers)

Imagine waking up every day and working on projects that challenge, inspire, and fulfill you.

It’s something you’ve envisioned for a long time—the dream of creating a life you love based on doing work that you can truly take ownership of.

You know that to get there, you need to be self employed. The prospect of this is both thrilling and terrifying—so much so that taking those first steps feels like an insurmountable challenge.

However, you’ve decided that you’re ready to rise to that challenge; you just need a road map. We’ve created a free checklist to help you navigate through the process of self employment.

Read more

How to Write a Mission Statement in 5 Easy Steps

(Shared by Jennifer Dunn, Program Assistant, Endeavor Center, OSU South Centers)

Bplans.com
by Tim Berry

I’ve had a 30-year love-hate relationship with mission statements. I’ve read thousands. I love it when a mission statement defines a business so well that it feels like strategy—which does happen—and I hate it when a mission statement is generic, stale, and completely useless. Which also happens, but not nearly as often.

What is a mission statement?

A good mission statement is useful tool for well-run business. It’s the “why” of business strategy.

A mission statement define a company’s goals in three important ways:
It defines what the company does for its customers
It defines what the company does for its employees
It defines what the company does for its owners
Some of the best mission statements also extend themselves to include fourth and fifth dimensions: what the company does for its community, and for the world.

Developing your company’s first mission statement, or writing a new or revised one, is your opportunity to define the company’s goals, ethics, culture, and norms for decision-making. The daily routine of business gets in the way sometimes, and a quick refresh with the mission statement helps a person take a step back and remember what’s most important: the organization has a purpose.

Read more…